London-based designer Benjamin Glassner has recently unveiled a new collection that celebrates extreme vanity through his designs. Inspired by early 2000s socialites and tabloid coverage of celebrity plastic surgery, Glassner sought to create a collection to subvert the previously-held beliefs surrounding them. As someone who has always been preoccupied with the ultimate form in human bodies, architecture, and clothing, Glassner’s latest collection astutely explores this theme.
With sustainability and the environment at the forefront of Glassner’s practice, the collection was produced ethically throughout the UK and Italy, a symbol of the designer’s commitment to this cause. In line with his mission to redefine the aesthetics of sustainability, Glassner exclusively sources vegan fabrics made in Italy from traceable, regenerative fibers, with all viscose fabrics FSC certified. He also commits to never using polyester or synthetic fibers in order to mitigate the environmental impact of his clothes through their life cycle.
This collection as a bold celebration of extreme vanity through fashion, produced with a strong commitment to environmental responsibility, is certainly a diamond in the rough. Emerging as a pretty much unparalleled means of creation in the fashion industry, we simply had to unravel the collection with the designer himself. From his beginnings in fashion, and the subversive women who inspired his collection, to the expanding of his label – we covered it all.
Head below to read the interview…
Hey Benjamin! Where are we speaking to you from?
I’m in Buenos Aires right now designing my next collection!
What was the last thing you thought about last night?
If we’re close to the apocalypse.
Could you talk us through your start in fashion? Were there any brands or designers that you interacted with growing up that have influenced you?
For my entire life, the pursuit of beauty has been an obsession of mine, and fashion has been the medium through which I’ve explored this. In pre-school, I used to sit on my mother’s lap as we went through each show on style.com. In my early teens, I worked at a high end consignment store in a seaside town outside of Boston called Marblehead, and I would spend every day there studying the clothes after school.
Around that time, I discovered Tom Ford, Galliano and McQueen and my world changed. I must have watched Galliano’s Dior Spring 2007 show a hundred times, and I memorised the entire soundtrack. At 13, I moved to downtown Boston to live with my father and I started a fashion blog that led to me getting invited to shows at NYFW, meeting incredible designers, and getting an insight into the industry at a young age. At 15, I spent the summer in London enrolled in a UAL course to build my portfolio to apply to CSM one day.
Soon after returning from London, I became involved in environmental activism and adopted a plant based diet. When I began to uncover the devastating impact the fashion industry has on animal welfare and the environment, I couldn’t ignore the dissonance between beauty and destruction and decided to step away from fashion.
Three years ago, after graduating from London Business School, I realised the gap in the market – high-end brands offering pieces free from both synthetic and animal fibres were nowhere to be found. I was working as a consultant in Hong Kong but decided to take a leap of faith and quit my job.
I spent the next few months in Italy and France attending trade shows and visiting mills to get a clearer understanding of what was possible within the limited parameters I had set. I knew that if I was going to do this, I wanted to create a collection that didn’t make the buyer feel like they were sacrificing anything by shopping sustainably. After establishing relationships with some of the best mills in Italy, I found incredible satins, velvets and jerseys — all made from FSC certified viscose. I launched my own brand, offering women pieces that are both beautiful and in line with my values.
Do you remember the first piece you ever made? Did you show it to anyone?
When I was a kid, I made a few pieces that were unfortunately lost to the sands of time. When I started my brand, the first piece I started working on was the Chinoiserie Coat from my first collection. It ended up looking like a rejected elf uniform from Santa’s workshop that I sadly needed to show to my team before burying it in my closet.
Your latest collection is focused on the feminine form through cut-outs, silhouettes, and even accessories. How was this conceptualised?
The inspiration behind my latest collection came from images I saw growing up of early 2000s socialites featured on websites like the New York Social Diary, and tabloid coverage of celebrity plastic surgery. Instead of critiquing vanity, as tabloids have done for decades, I wanted to celebrate this kind of extreme vanity through my designs.
I created the jewellery to complement the aesthetic of the woman I had in mind when designing the collection. The silicone sculptures provided a more distorted perspective on the subject matter of plastic surgery and body modification. As someone who has always been obsessed with perfect form, whether in the human body, architecture, or clothing, I wanted to explore this theme literally through my work.
What would you like people to take away from this collection?
What I’d like people to take away from this collection is an appreciation for the multifaceted nature of beauty, whether artificial or natural. Ultimately, the collection serves as an exploration of self-expression with the body itself as the medium.
My intention is to provoke thought about the journey to realize one’s idealized aesthetic form. Plastic surgery and fashion can be tools for self-transformation, and I am fascinated by people who use these tools to craft a persona and achieve their personal goals.
Who do you envision wearing your designs? Do they have a certain job, ethos, or lifestyle?
My pieces are designed for unapologetic, enigmatic women who get what they want from the world. I love the idea of an International woman of mystery and Dasha Zhukova, Esther Canadas, Bianca Brandolini d’Adda and Vanessa Getty are among the women who inspire my work.
My team and I craft each piece to ensure they are both comfortable and sexy. Our goal is to create clothes that the wearer can forget about while looking amazing. Quality is more important than quantity to my target audience, and we strive to meet their expectations.
If you were to give advice to young designers just starting out, what would it be?
Start small and keep your overhead low. Each piece in a collection needs to go through a lengthy development process and it’s better to start small until you have a clear sense of how things work and have established relationships with suppliers and contractors.
Lastly, where do you see your brand headed? In five years’ time, where would you like it to be?
In the next five years, my vision for the brand is to expand into new product categories such as shoes, handbags, and fragrances, while further developing my aesthetic and brand identity.
To enhance the storytelling of my future collections, I hope to release short films that capture the inspiration and world behind them. The video for my recent collection explored the theme of plastic surgery and transformation in relation to beauty and was created in collaboration with my longtime friend, Chelsey d’Adesky, a director based in LA.